Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
Deluxe CD $19.98
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sultry fourth record starts with a bang, a big soul-rocker complete with gospel choir called “Sacrilige.” From there it’s a smorgasbord as colorful as their mosquito-attacking-a-baby album cover, including moody, atmospheric sound pieces (“Subway”), Banshees-esque post-punk rockers (the title track), dubby soundscapes (“Under the Earth”), “X-Files”-inspired new age ballads (“These Paths”) and rockers (“Area 52”). And that’s all before you get to a dark collaboration with Dr. Octagon and James Murphy (“Buried Alive”), as well as breathtaking new entries into Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ pantheon of after prom-style bittersweet ballads in the form of the picturesque “Always,” the slow-burning, oddly uplifting “Despair” and touching “Wedding Song.” Mosquito is a very different beast from the previous YYY’s albums and takes some getting used to, for sure, but repeat listens offer new rewards (as with every album the band has produced since its debut). Its eeriness and campiness at times call to mind a Cramps record, while its hollowed-out space represents something else entirely, something new and alluring. You might miss some of their previous raucousness (or continuity), but hearing them fling new ideas to the wall to see what sticks is intriguing enough. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the few bands who know how to make its constant tinkering with its sound both interesting and entertaining. Hearing them restlessly forge new ground on Mosquito screws with your head in the best way possible. It inspires you to shake old notions of what stadium-size rock bands can and should do, and that lone is something to celebrate. Pick up "Mosquito" at any Amoeba store 4/16 and get a limited edition autographed lithograph and a special 7” (while supplies last).
Jessie Ware - Devotion
Finally seeing a U.S. release after a half-year’s worth of hype following its U.K release, Jessie Ware’s Devotion sounds better now than on its intial release. Its post-millennial touches, like the Kid A-style synths that open the title track, still entice, and its nuanced pop hooks, on tracks like the immortal “Night Light,” have aged well over the past few months. For the uninitiated, Ware released Devotion to fervent critical attention last year in the U.K., fusing European dubstep’s cool (read: Burial, not Skrillex) with Europop dance grooves and catchiness, coming off as somewhere between a hipster Sade and a cooler Adele. One EP release later (If You’re Never Going to Move) and Devotion is seeing its official U.S. release. Songs like “Wildest Moments” and “Running” are subtle yet incredibly catchy, sounding like pop hits beamed in from another planet or time —’80s pop and synth-funk figure largely, too, on songs like the sexy “Sweet Talk.” For those who might have admired Devotion but longed for it to up the energy a bit, the U.S. release actually improves on the original with the inclusion of a new single, the upbeat, even club-worthy “Imagine It Was Us,” which retains Ware’s cool while nodding to Madonna and larger dance trends, and is a perfect introduction for the headier pleasures housed on Devotion. If you haven’t yet checked out Jessie Ware, now’s the time.
The Flaming Lips - The Terror
Given The Flaming Lips’ recent cavorting with Ke$ha and goofy yet underrated Heady Fwends release, it makes sense that for the band’s latest release, they retreat further into the black holes explored on 2009’s remarkable Embryonic. The Terror can occasionally be true to its name, on tracks like the frightening, 13-minute “You Lust,” which creeps out with a giallo-esque vibe and steam-emitting, krautrock beat, but also sort of kills the album’s momentum early on and leads into spiraling explorations. However, return visits to The Terror reveal an album with flowers mired in the muck. “Be Free, A Way” and “Try to Explain” house some of the Lips’ most aching melodies. Flipping around to individual tracks offer an occasionally more affecting experience than listening to the whole thing through, as the title track, for instance, has a sort of bluesy swagger delivered in cult-link environs, hiding underneath its squelching electronics and heaving synths, that sounds exhausting over six minutes coming off the “You Lust” but can be completely engrossing when taken on its own. “Turning Violent” is a big, slow-moving pop opus that moves into similarly epic closer “Always There…In Our Hearts,” a track whose big drums and vocals echoing out into infinity begs to be heard live. Overall it won’t exactly win new fans into the Flaming Lips fold, but for anyone who may have been afraid the group was losing its edge to pop collaborations and brightly colored live shows, The Terror is a not so subtle reminder of just how strange, powerful and insular the band can sound.
Andrew Wyatt - Descender
I can’t get enough of Andrew Wyatt’s Descender, a gorgeous piece of orchestral pop that floors you with its slow-moving grandeur and subtly moving moments. Consisting of nine pieces, Descender melds into a whole, unified by ornate yet reserved instrumentation from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Wyatt’s own pop savvy, having fronted electro-pop band Miike Snow as well as produced for the likes of Bruno Mars and others. After “Horse Latitudes” sets the stage austerely with beautiful strings and open space, “Harlem Boyzz” is the kind of wall-of-sound pop seemingly no one produces these days (or no one produces this well), catchy with swooping, whimsical vocals and lyrics from Wyatt, who endearingly goes to the top of his vocal range in a kind of Frankie Valli moment at the chorus. After trips through croonersville (“She’s Changed”) and more bouncey pop (the delightful “And Septimus…”), the album comes to a quiet close. It’s a brilliant, if brief, statement that leaves you wanting to listen to it all over again the second it’s done. Hopefully Descender is just an appetizer for Wyatt to ditch his day jobs and keep making beautiful orchestral pop — the world needs it.
Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
More badass, seething garage rock from S.F.’s Thee Oh Sees. From surging psychedelic opener “I Come From the Mountain” through closer “Minotaur,” which takes the band to new heights of subtle, dark melodicism, turning over a new soul side to the band, Floating Coffin sees Thee Oh Sees at their best. Heavy fuzz makes a welcome appearance here, splattered across many of Floating Coffin’s 10 tracks, including the aptly titled “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster,” one of their best heavy jams yet, akin to Ty Segall Band’s recent Slaughterhouse album in its full-fledged embrace of the fuzz. Try as they might to overwhelm you with so many releases, Thee Oh Sees’ albums are always welcome, continuing their recent upward trajectory on Floating Coffin. If you’ve held out on listening to this band thus far, here’s the place to start.